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West Coaster is a monthly magazine and website dedicated to the San Diego Craft Beer Community. Their mission is to coordinate, educate, and advocate the growing San Diego Craft Beer Community through a monthly newspaper, frequently updated website, and social media.
Winners of the 2017 SD Homebrew Fest’s Competition (left to right) Darrel Brown (1st place), Doug Brown (3rd place), and Sean Thompson (2nd place)
The premier homebrewing event in the region, The San Diego Homebrew Festival and Competition, will take place on March 10th in the lot behind the historic North Park Theatre building (the future site of the North Park “Mini-park”), from noon until 4:00 PM! This will mark the third annual Homebrew Fest, and a significant expansion from its predecessors, featuring more homebrewers, more licensed brewers, and more food vendors. For a measly $35, guests receive unlimited tastes of more than forty different brews of every imaginable style.
This year, 35 homebrewers will compete for bragging rights as San Diego’s best backyard brewmeister. In addition, ten local licensed breweries will contribute kegs, and three food vendors will be on hand to feed the adventurous beerheads. Among the licensed brewers, we are proud to include Savagewood Brewing Company, owned by Darrel Brown, who launched the brand after winning last year’s Homebrew Fest. Brews will be judged by trained experts, and the winners will be announced at the end of the event.
In addition to beer and food, guests can also participate in games, a silent auction, a chance to vote for the People’s Choice award, and of course, plenty of opportunities to nerd out with local beer experts.
Not only will you enjoy a truly unique experience that stands out from the ubiquitous, generic craft brew fests in San Diego; you will do so knowing that all the proceeds go toward supporting North Park’s neighborhood public school, Jefferson Elementary. Friends of Jefferson, the beneficiary of this fundraiser, is a non-profit foundation that supports education and enrichment programs at Jefferson that are not covered by the School District budget, including weekly gardening classes, art classes, after-school clubs, and more. Jefferson Elementary is a SDUSD public school in which more than 70% of students are eligible for free meals; and given the District’s ongoing budget woes, community support for public schools like Jefferson is more crucial than ever. Community partners including Homebrew Fest sponsors Waypoint Public, The Homebrewer, Community Realty Co, North Park Lions Club, Damian Luna Designs, KFMB and The CW, and Observatory North Park have been invaluable in the efforts to expand opportunities for Jefferson students.
This is a sponsored post by The San Diego Homebrew Festival & Competition.
For more information and tickets, go to www.sdhomebrewfest.com
Horton’s Hef from The Bell Marker in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter
From the Beer Writer: Back when I was just ankle-deep into the craft-beer waters that would one day consume me, not as many beer styles were available as there are today. IPAs were fewer and you could almost always count on a venue offering three ubiquitous styles: amber ale, stout and hefeweizen. The latter was my favorite type of beer early on. I enjoyed their trademark banana-and-clove character and added body. Today, nearly every beer style known to mankind is being brewed, with new sub-styles being created on the reg. Hefeweizens are still around. They’re still rather popular…just not in San Diego. For whatever reason, few local breweries venture into this wheaty Germanic territory, which made me all the happier on my first visit to The Bell Marker. This downtown brewpub opened last month pouring the initial liquid stock of head brewer (and former Pizza Port standout) Noah Regnery, my favorite of which was The Bell Marker Horton’s Hef. It showed up at my table with all the cloudiness of a hazy IPA, and even some of the lemon-zest notes one might encounter with that New World style. But on the palate, it was all Old World…and old San Diego (if the late-nineties is really all that “old”…no need to chime in on that, thanks). Banana bread and light clove came on with the slightest touch of orange, all delivered on a creamy Bavarian wave.
From the Brewer: “Horton’s Hef is a traditional, Bavarian-style wheat beer with notes of banana and clove. It pours hazy yellow with a soft, pillowy head and lively carbonation. The style is beautiful in it’s simplicity as the vast majority of it’s character is derived from the yeast. The name is a nod to nearby Horton Plaza, which itself was named for Alonzo Horton, a man largely credited with the founding and development of San Diego. Here at The Bell Marker we will aim to specialize in classic beer styles, of course adding our own twists along the way. Our lineup will vary from time to time and feature myriad styles, from German, to English, to Belgian, and of course there will be no shortage of hoppy offerings.”—Noah Regnery, Head Brewer, The Bell Marker
Last month, The Bell Marker debuted in the former home of defunct Gaslamp Quarter brewpub, The Beer Co. While little was known about the project leading up to its opening, one solitary fact created a great deal of optimism for fans of San Diego beer: Noah Regnery was helming brewing operations.
Regnery is well known locally for the many award-winning beers he crafted while a member of the Pizza Port brewpub chain. The highlight of his success with that organization was winning Small Brewpub of the Year for its San Clemente location at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. He left the company in 2011 to become head brewer at Hollister Brewing Company in Goleta, California. Following that, he moved to Healdsburg to help run his family’s restaurant before accepting a director position with Los Angeles-based Artisanal Brewers Collective, the parent company of The Bell Marker.
Today, news broke that another key member of the Pizza Port team is joining The Bell Maker brewing team. Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes has resigned from the company he spent the past 11 years at to assist Regnery. It’s a high-profile move for a high-profile brewer who previously headed Pizza Port’s Carlsbad and Ocean Beach brewpubs before moving to the company’s Bressi Ranch production brewery and pub in Carlsbad. It’s quite the coup and should draw interested beer enthusiasts to the spacious downtown brewpub.
Tommy Morstad at Blind Lady Ale House. Photo by Keaton Henson
When former Stone brewmaster Lee Chase opened the doors to Blind Lady Ale House back in 2009, neither it nor its Normal Heights environs looked all that different than they do now, but the beer-and-food landscape was worlds different back then. Craft beer was on the rise and, slowly but surely, eateries celebrating that liquid medium were popping up around San Diego, but finding a restaurant that put equal focus on beer and food was a bit challenging. The arrival of Blind Lady (or BLAH as it’s affectionately known), a seemingly simple spot offering artisanal Napoletana pizza and an epic assemblage of ales and lagers, gave foodies and beer nerds alike a dependable, approachable and very welcome haven.
Tommy Morstad was sous to then exec-toque Aaron Lamonica in those early days, a time he refers to as the most special moments of his career. This, even though he proceeded to earn numerous awards after moving on to cook for Daniel Reed Hospitality in Savannah, Georgia in 2011, before returning to San Diego to work for Blue Bridge Hospitality in 2013. It’s the affection he harbored for BLAH that led him to accept an invitation to return, this time as executive chef. He’s been in charge ever since and, though much time has passed, not much has changed in the back of the house either. The past nine years have been more a period of refinement than revamping.
“Pretty much everything we do now, we were doing day one, but we are doing it better and more efficiently now,” says Morstad, who says the best part of returning is the like-minded and skilled individuals he gets to work with. BLAH has been a fully-from-scratch, authentic-as-possible operation since day one. From in-house curing of charcuterie meats to the use of DOP Italian products and devotion to supporting local farmers—they have never sourced from Sysco or US Foods—BLAH’s culinary staff has maintained the noble, heartfelt course it charted nine years ago.
Photo by Keaton Henson
“We started out using as many local farms as we could, many of them as they were just opening, and we have continued that tradition ever since, developing meaningful relationships with many local farmers,” says Morstad. Among those purveyors were Suzie’s Farms, Sage Mountain Farm, Wild Willow Farm, Stehly Farms, Be Wise Ranch, Life’s a Choke Farm, New Roots Community Farm and Crow’s Pass Farm. “We’ve always strived to be true to the community and our neighborhood by serving fresh, sustainable local food in a casual setting at accessible prices.”
Though, for many, BLAH’s initial draw was a worldly beer list masterfully curated by Chase and company, and eventually beers brewed via the former’s in-house and often outlandish fermentation component, Automatic Brewing Company, patrons quickly fell for the dishes coming from its kitchen. In addition to authentic Napoletana-style pizza, that included an array of vegetarian and vegan dishes that made it easy for people of any dietary ilk to enjoy good food and good beer. In addition to menu compatibility, the communal nature of BLAH’s dining room keeps things light and fun.
Photo by Keaton Henson
“Eating should instigate conversation and drive people together. It’s important to all of us—the staff and the owners—to involve our customers in how we run things here. They guide us and we guide them. It’s a real give and take,” says Morstad, who has decided to go all-in with the give part of that equation by offering three recipes from BLAH’s playbook.
The first is for “vesto,” a vegan pesto that serves as the condiment for a pizza Morstad and Chase say pairs well with The Apprentice IPA from Societe Brewing. The other two are a Green Goddess dressing and pickled carrots, both of which make it into a farro salad the duo likes to serve alongside La Vie En Rose Saison from Pure Project Brewing. Make them yourself or drop into BLAH for a taste of the genuine article, perhaps during their ninth-anniversary festivities, taking place from February 19 to 25.
(Click for recipes below)
Vesto (Vegan Pesto) Yield: About 2½ cups
1¾ ounces toasted almonds
1½ cups canola oil
⅔ pound fresh basil leaves
2⅓ ounces garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 ounce white miso
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the almonds into the bowl of a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped, being careful not to grind into a paste or powder. Remove and set aside. Pour the oil into the blender and turn the machine on. Add the basil, a handful at a time, and blend until fine. Repeat until all of the basil has been used. Add the garlic, yeast, miso, salt and pepper, and blend until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the almonds and serve.
# # #
Photo by Keaton Henson
Pickled Carrots Yield: 1¼ pounds
16 ounces rice wine vinegar
16 ounces water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp juniper berries
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
2 whole cloves
1¼ pounds baby carrots
Add the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the sugar and salt completely dissolve. Add the peppercorns, juniper berries, pepper flakes, cinnamon, star anise and cloves, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Place the carrots in a large, non-reactive bowl. Strain the hot pickling liquid over the carrots. Cover the bowl with a towel and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.
To serve, use a slotted spoon to remove the carrots from the liquid. Store remaining carrots refrigerated in their liquid inside sealed mason jars.
# # # Green Goddess Dressing Yield: About 2 cups
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chives
¼ cup Italian parsley
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp cup miso
1 clove garlic
1½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
1½ Tbsp tahini
juice of ½ lemon
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all of the ingredients except for the oil in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are well blended, then turn the machine on. With the machine running, slowly and steadily add the oil and blend until the mixture is fully emulsified. Serve immediately.
—Recipes courtesy Tommy Morstad, Executive Chef, Blind Lady Ale House
Prime geography in San Diego proper nabs the rapidly expanding hospitality empires of the Consortium Holdings and Cohn Restaurant Groups of the world a lot of attention. Meanwhile, 3 Local Brothers Restaurant Group has rather quietly built itself up from a soft-spoken wine-centric neighborhood eatery in Rancho Bernardo to a half-dozen diverse concepts that includes multiple brewpubs, a coffee roaster and one of the largest restaurants in the county. And, oh yeah, they have a combination resto and tasting room launching in Carmel Valley this spring, another restaurant under construction in Baja and a newly established beer distribution company. With all that going on, we sat down with co-founder Grant Tondro to inquire about the latest and greatest in the 3LB universe.
What will the Carmel Valley project entail?
We’ve always wanted to do a second location of our first place, The Barrel Room, but have been pretty busy growing Urge and launching Mason Ale Works the last couple of years. Our new spots will be at 5550 Carmel Mountain Road. The Barrel Room will be about 5,000 square feet, which is about 50% larger than its predecessor with a nice patio that wraps around the dining room. It will have a full liquor license, unlike the first location, and a banquet room. Chef Trevor Chappell will leave his post at the original Barrel Room to helm kitchen operations at the new spot. Attached to the new space will be a Mason Tap Works and Kitchen, a tasting room for all things Mason Ale Works but with a small, streamlined kitchen for patrons. Chef Trevor will be overseeing an in-house charcuterie program inside the space, so we will have some amazing meats and cheeses as well as flatbreads, sandwiches and a few other small, shareable items that pair well with our beers. We were careful to select a location for Tap Works that was far away from accounts that are currently buying our beers. We don’t want to be competition for our supporters, but want to bring awesome craft beer to a beer desert while familiarizing more people with Mason. It will also give us an outlet for more of our small-batch beers that our head brewer Matt Webster has been working on and aging in barrels for the last year.
What will the Carmel Valley tasting room look like and when is its projected opening time frame?
A lot of the design will be inspired by the San Marcos Urge Common House location—industrial with rolled steel and rivets, Edison bulbs, some white subway tile and some of my favorites like black walnut table tops from North Carolina and these hand-hammered, distressed yellow table bases for a pop of color. There will be 20 taps of core and specialty beers as well as plenty of one-off beers to go. It’s projected to open in late March or early April.
What led 3LB to start a distribution company and open a bar across the border?
Mexico is a fascinating market and I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical. It was really my business partner, Zak Higson, who was banging the drum in the beginning of 2017 to get things going. There is a very underrepresented segment of the market down there that is thirsty for craft beer, and some great up-and-coming breweries that are responding to that demand. That being said, there are some challenges with starting a craft brewery in Mexico and quality assurance can be a challenge. We’d already had a few bars bring our beer south the old-fashioned way, so we felt like starting a distributorship was the next logical step. Once we were working on that, the conversation led to the types of things we would have liked to have seen from a distributor in the US, and a spinoff conversation started around doing a tap room to show off the brands in our portfolio. That, in true 3LB fashion, grew to what is currently under construction, which is a full restaurant with 20 taps.
Including your own distribution company’s territory, where all is Mason available now?
We are currently distributed throughout Southern California, Arizona and Mexico—predominantly Baja for now. We just launched Colorado and Northern California, and are planning on adding Idaho and Nevada distribution by the third quarter of this year. We’ve had conversations about additional states, but we are probably in a wait-and-see mode after this additional pickup.
It sounds odd to ask, but is there anything else exciting going on?
This year will be about growing our selections, both in-house and for distribution. Each month in 2018, Mason Ale Works will release one new beer into the general market and one new beer each week into our restaurants. The barrel-aged beers and sours will start to come out in April. We are working on getting our retail license in San Marcos as well so that we can do brewery releases, too.
This event takes place at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. On the same date of the festival, The Fleet begins it’s run of the MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition. Now, you can drink beer, listen to music, eat yummy food and interact with the hands-on exhibits.
Chances are good you’ll leave with all your fingers & toes! Get tickets here.
This post is sponsored by San Diego Winter Brew Fest.
Last week, Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch began posting a series of cryptic Tweets as a lead-up to a “scrap” that would go down at noon today. Having worked for Stone for numerous years and coordinated on various marketing campaigns with Koch, this had all the earmarks of such an initiative. They are interwoven into the DNA of the 22-year-old, Escondido brewing company, which rose to prominence in the late-nineties and early-thousands thanks as much to its extremely hoppy beers (especially for the marketplace at the time) as Koch’s adventurous marketing, most notably the taunting verbiage on the back of bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale. But a video and press release that went out earlier today attest that this melee—a lawsuit filed against MillerCoors over the branding of its Keystone line of beers—is quite serious.
The suit alleges that multi-national “Big Beer” conglomerate MillerCoors is purposely trying to create confusion in the marketplace with a recent rebranding of the products in Keystone’s portfolio. A prime example are 12-ounce cans, which break the word “Keystone” into two words on separate lines that read “Key” and “Stone” (which appear in all capital letters). When rotated a certain way, all that is visible is the word Stone. Furthermore, on 30-pack cases, the word “Keystone” appears, but it is depicted so that only the word “Stone” is shown on a can (which is rotated in the manner noted above) and the “Key” merely precedes it. From there, other terms like “Light” are tacked on, again, independent of the can.
“Are we doing this for publicity…no. We figured you ought to know the facts,” says Koch in his video message to consumers (which can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here). “The point is, there’s an intentional obfuscation that they are attempting to run, confusing people with our brand.”
“Keystone’s rebranding is no accident,” adds Stone CEO Dominic Engels. “MillerCoors tried to register our name years ago and was rejected.” He also notes that Keystone’s social-media posts have “almost universally dropped the ‘Key.’”
As an observer employed in a marketing capacity within the brewing industry, I will say that the first time I saw Keystone’s rebrand, I wondered how it would be received by my previous employer. It struck me the same way as it did Koch, as an attempt to piggyback off a legitimate craft brand, albeit through one of the most blatant and sophomoric attempts at subterfuge I’ve seen by a multi-billion-dollar corporation.
In the video, Koch switches from fact- and opinion-driven summation of the lawsuit filing to his trademark, dryly-comedic bashing of Big Beer. He insults the “flavorless and watery” nature of Keystone products and performs multiple spit takes with the beer. While a court of public opinion will not provide judgment on this case (in which Stone is being represented by BraunHagey & Borden LLP), in this day and age, there is no way that craft-beer consumers and the population at large won’t make up their own minds about the merits of the suit. It would seem Koch’s delivery leaves the door open for doubters who would say that, while there is substantial cause for taking MillerCoors to court, Stone is attempting to benefit from as much publicity as possible in the process.
Stone has set up a social-media hashtag—#TrueStonevsKeystone—for people to follow along, primarily with Koch. Of course, this case may never make it to court. As Koch says when addressing MillerCoors in his video: “You can end all of this right here and now by one simple move that reinforces your brand that you’ve built. Put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone.’ Stop using Stone as a stand-alone word. It’s ours.”
Tongues of Angels 100% Simcoe IPA from South Park Brewing Company
From the Beer Writer: Single-hop India pale ales (IPAs) allow brewers to spotlight the flavors and aromas of individual hop varietals, typically against a light-as-possible malt backdrop. Sipping one can be as educational as it is thirst-quenching. Single-hop beers are the best way to get to know your hops, however, many can come up short compared to multi-hop IPAs. It’s like trying to cook while ignoring all but one ingredient in the spice rack. You’re asking a lot of one type of hop. But when the hop has a lot to offer and the beer is engineered just right, single-hop IPAs can be every bit as good as a beer blending numerous shades of earthen green. Such is the case with South Park Tongues of Angels, a single-hop IPA featuring one of the world’s money hops: Simcoe. South Park Brewingextrudes every iota of sensational character from this complex fruit of the bine. Lemon, orange, grapefruit, wheatgrass, pepper and green herbaceous notes come on strong with little more than the lightest whisp of toasty breadiness to get in their way. The beer is a thing of beauty and proof that “simple” is not a synonym for “plain.”
From the Brewery: “Tongues of Angels is a highly-addictive house beer favorite brewed with some Simcoe followed by some Simcoe topped off by some Simcoe and sprinkled with a little more Simcoe for kicks! From first-wort to dry-hop, this IPA is 100% hopped with Simcoe and designed to showcase the beauty and versatility of this special varietal. Light biscuit flavor and aroma set the base and you will notice earthy, catty, citrusy, fruity notes intermingled with varying levels of pine, displaying all that Simcoe hops are and can be. The beer is soft on the mouth and gentle in the finish, which makes it brilliantly suited for the ‘tongues of angels.’ And after a few of these deceptively drinkable IPAs you may actually begin speaking in the tongues of angels. Prost!”—Scot Blair, Owner & Brewmaster, South Park Brewing Company
A multi-faceted, fermentation-focused festival returns to Encinitas on February 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Info & Tix)
Organizer Austin Durant, who’s run San Diego’s Fermenters Club since 2011, says that he’s looking forward to helping educate attendees on how fermentation relates to everyday life. Below is a breakdown of what to expect this Sunday for the San Diego Fermentation Festival:
Presentations on cheesemaking, the fermentation of beverages such as kombucha, cider, mead & coffee, plus a keynote discussion featuring new data in microbiome research.
(21+) The San Diego Beverage Times Ambrosia Garden ($45 presale/$50 at the door) features San Diegans Boochcraft, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Cutwater Spirits, Golden Coast Mead, Home Brewing Co., Lost Cause Meadery, Misadventure & Co., Raging Cider & Mead Co., and the San Diego County Vintners Association. 101 Cider from the Thousand Oaks area also joins the party.
A “Makers Marketplace” with more than 25 vendors offering free samples and/or selling goods/services. Local beverage producers will include Cafe Virtuoso, Cultured Provisions, Edible Alchemy, Fully Loaded Micro Juicery, Good Stuff Tonics, Kombucha Culture, and Living Tea Kombucha.
A “starter swap” hosted by Fermentation on Wheels, an educational, traveling bus hub for all things cultured. Experienced fermenters are encouraged to bring their starters to swap with each other.
Hands-on pickling stations.
A “Wellness Pavilion” with yoga, reiki, sound healing, acupuncture.
Kids’ activities including a Coastal Roots farm tour with focuses on composting and pickling. Children under 12 are free with a paid adult ticket.
Live music on two stages.
Vegetarian food court.
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